They didn't know the man they were after, or they'd have just as soon have gone to 'take tea', as they called it, with a tiger.

Father put on one of his old poacher dodges that he had borrowed from the lapwing in his own country, that he used to tell us about when we were boys (our wild duck 'll do just the same), and made himself out a deal worse than he was. Father could run a bit, too; he'd been fast for a mile when he was young, and though he was old now he never carried no flesh to signify, and was as hard as nails. So what with knowing the ground, and they being flat-country men, he kept just out of pistol-shot, and yet showed enough to keep 'em filled up with the notion that they'd run him down after a bit.

They fired a shot every now and then, thinking a chance one might wing him, but this only let Moran and Daly see that some one was after dad, and that the hunt was coming their way.

They held steady where they had been told to stop, and looked out for the men they'd been warned of by father. As he got near this place he kept lettin' 'em git a bit nearer and nearer to him, so as they'd follow him up just where he wanted. It gave them more chance of hitting him, but he didn't care about that, now his blood was up -- not he. All he wanted was to get them. Dad was the coolest old cove, when shooting was going on, ever I see. You'd think he minded bullets no more than bottle-corks.

Well, he goes stumbling and dragging himself like up the gully, and they, cocksure of getting him, closing up and shooting quicker and quicker, when just as he jumps down the Black Gully steps a bullet did hit him in the shoulder under the right arm, and staggers him in good earnest. He'd just time to cut down the bank and turn to the left along the creek channel, throwing himself down on his face among the bushes, when the whole four of 'em jumps down the bank after him.

'Stand!' says Moran, and they looked up and saw him and Daly covering them with their revolvers. Before they'd time to draw, two of 'em rolls over as dead as door-nails.

The other two were dumbfoundered and knocked all of a heap by suddenly finding themselves face to face with the very men they'd been hunting after for weeks and weeks. They held up their pistols, but they didn't seem to have much notion of using them -- particularly when they found father had rounded on 'em too, and was standing a bit away on the side looking very ugly and with his revolver held straight at 'em.

'Give in! Put down your irons,' says Moran, 'or by ----, we'll drop ye where ye stand.'

'Come on,' says one, and I think he intended to make a fight for it.

He'd 'a been better off if he had. It couldn't have been worse for him; but the other one didn't see a chance, and so he says --

'Give in, what's the good? There's three to two.'

'All right,' says the other chap, the big one; and they put down their pistols.

It was curious now as these two were both men that father and Moran had a down on. They'd better have fought it out as long as they could stand up. There's no good got by givin' in that I ever seen. Men as does so always drop in for it worse in the end.

First thing, then, they tied 'em with their hands behind 'em, and let 'em stand up near their mates that were down -- dead enough, both of them, one shot through the heart and one through the head.

Then Moran sits down and has a smoke, and looks over at 'em.

'You don't remember me, Mr. Hagan?' says he, in his drawling way.

'No,' says the poor chap, 'I don't think I do.'

'But I remember you devilish well,' says Moran; 'and so you'll find afore we leave this.' Then he took another smoke. 'Weren't you warder in Berrima Gaol,' says he, 'about seven year ago? Ah! now we're coming to it. You don't remember getting Daniel Moran -- a prisoner serving a long sentence there -- seven days' solitary on bread and water for what you called disobedience of orders and insolence?'

'Yes, I do remember now. I'd forgotten your face. I was only doing my duty, and I hope you won't bear any malice.'

'It was a little thing to you, maybe,' says Moran; 'but if you'd had to do seven long days and long cold nights in that devil's den, you'd 'a thought more about it. But you will now. My turn's come.'

'I didn't do it to you more than to the rest. I had to keep order in the gaol, and devilish hard work it was.'

'You're a liar,' says Moran, striking him across the face with his clenched hand. 'You had a down on me because I wouldn't knuckle down to you like some of them, and so you dropped it on to me every turn you could get. I was a youngster then, and might have grown into a man if I'd been let. But fellows like you are enough to turn any man into a devil if they've got him in their power.'

'Well, I'm in your power now,' says he. 'Let's see how you'll shape.'

'I don't like ye any the worse for being cheeky,' says Moran, 'and standing up to me, but it's too late. The last punishment I got, when I was kept in irons night and day for a month because I'd tried to get out, I swore I'd have your life if ever I came across ye.'

'You'll never shoot me in cold blood,' says the poor devil, beginning to look blue about the lips.

'I don't know what old Ben's going to do with the man he found chevying his daughter,' says Moran, looking at him with his deadly black-snake eyes, 'but I'm a-goin' to shoot you as soon as I've smoked out this pipe, so don't you make any mistake.'

'I don't mind a shot or two,' says Daly, 'but I'm dashed if I can stand by and see men killed in cold blood. You coves have your own reasons, I suppose, but I shall hook it over to the Fish River. You know where to find me.' And he walked away to where the horses were and rode off.


We got fresh horses and rode over quick to Rocky Flat. We took Warrigal with us, and followed our old track across Nulla Mountain till we got within a couple of miles of the place. Warrigal picked up the old mare's tracks, so we knew father had made over that way, and there was no call for us to lose time running his trail any longer. Better go straight on to the house and find out what had happened there. We sent Warrigal on ahead, and waited with our horses in our hands till he come back to us.

In about an hour he comes tearing back, with his eyes staring out of his head.

'I bin see old missis,' he says. 'She yabber that one make-believe constable bin there. Gammon-like it surveyor, and bimeby old man Ben gon' alonga hut, and that one pleeceman fire at him and all about, and him break back alonga gully.'

'Any of 'em come back?' says Jim.

'Bale! me see um tent-dog tied up. Cake alonga fireplace, all burn to pieces. No come home last night. I b'lieve shot 'em old man longa gully.'

'Come along, boys,' says Starlight, jumping into his saddle. 'The old man might have been hit. We must run the tracks and see what's come of the governor. Four to one's big odds.'

We skirted the hut and kept out wide till Warrigal cut the tracks, which he did easy enough. We couldn't see a blessed thing. Warrigal rode along with his head down, reading every tuft of grass, every little stone turned up, every foot of sand, like a book.

'Your old fader run likit Black Gully. Two fellow track here -- bullet longa this one tree.' Here he pointed to a scratch on the side of a box tree, in which the rough bark had been shivered. 'Bimeby two fellow more come; 'nother one bullet; 'nother one here, too. This one blood drop longa white leaf.'

Here he picked up a dried gum leaf, which had on the upper side a dark red spot, slightly irregular.

We had it all now. We came to a place where two horses had been tied to a tree. They had been stamping and pawing, as if they had been there a goodish while and had time to get pretty sick of it.

'That near side one Moran's horse, pigeon-toes; me know 'em,' says Warrigal. 'Off side one Daly's roan horse, new shoes on. You see 'um hair, rub himself longa tree.'

'What the blazes were they doing hereabouts?' says Starlight. 'This begins to look complicated. Whatever the row was, Daly and he were in it. There's no one rich enough to rob hereabouts, is there? I don't like the look of it. Ride on, boys.'

We said nothing to each other, but rode along as fast as Warrigal could follow the line. The sky, which was bright enough when we started, clouded over, and in less than ten minutes the wind rose and rain began to pour down in buckets, with no end of thunder and lightning. Then it got that cold we could hardly sit on our horses for trembling. The sky grew blacker and blacker. The wind began to whistle and cry till I could almost swear I heard some one singing out for help. Nulla Mountain was as black as your hat, and a kind of curious feeling crept over me, I hardly knew why, as if something was going to happen, I didn't know what.

I fully expected to find father dead; and, though he wasn't altogether a good father to us, we both felt bad at the notion of his lyin' there cold and stiff. I began to think of him as he used to be when we were boys, and when he wasn't so out and out hard -- and had a kind word for poor mother and a kiss for little Aileen.

But if he were shot or taken, why hadn't these other men come back? We had just ridden by their tents, and they looked as if they'd just been left for a bit by men who were coming back at night. The dog was howling and looked hungry. Their blankets were all thrown about. Anyhow, there was a kettle on the fire, which was gone out; and more than that, there was the damper that Warrigal had seen lying in the ashes all burnt to a cinder.

Everything looked as if they'd gone off in a hurry, and never come back at night or since. One of their horses was tied with a tether rope close to the tent poles, and he'd been walking round and trampling down the grass, as if he'd been there all night. We couldn't make it out.

We rode on, hardly looking at one another, but following Warrigal, who rattled on now, hardly looking at the ground at all, like a dog with a burning scent. All of a sudden he pulls up, and points to a dip into a cross gully, like an old river, which we all knew.

'You see um crow? I b'leeve longa Black Gully.'

Sure enough, just above the drop down, where we used to gallop our ponies in old times and laugh to see 'em throw up their tails, there were half-a-dozen crows and a couple of eagle-hawks high up in the sky, wheeling and circling over the same place.

'By George! they've got the old man,' says Jim. 'Come on, Dick. I never thought poor old dad would be run down like this.'

'Or he's got them!' says Starlight, curling his lip in a way he had. 'I don't believe your old governor's dead till I see him. The devil himself couldn't grab him on his own ground.'